Today we wrap up a week of wrap-ups with a look at my favorite film discoveries of 2017! These are the eighteen new-to-me films that left the strongest impression on me last year, many of which I’d consider to be new favorites. Listed in order of preference.
Not just my most memorable discovery of 2017, but one of my most memorable discoveries in recent years! I adore this film and have already re-watched it a couple of times. Putting this list together made me want to watch it again. If you like movies that’ll crack you up and break your heart, please give this one a watch. I can’t recommend it enough.
Underworld, USA (1961)
This was one of my FilmStruck discoveries. It tells the story of a man who watched his father be killed when he was a teenager. Now that he’s all grown up, he’s got one dream: to get revenge on the men who killed his father. This one lands high on the list because it’s so incredibly grim and tense. One of the most atmospheric films I watched all year. I’m a sucker for a crime drama, and this one grips the viewer from beginning to end.
As funny as the Oscar mess-up was, it’s unfortunate that this film will probably be remembered for that event by most people, rather than for its merit. It’s such a beautifully told story, and just as beautifully shot.
The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)
Of course, the list must include some Stanwyck! Here she plays a sneaky woman who seduces the assistant District Attorney and plots to steal from her wealthy aunt. There are several twists to the film which were unexpected to me. It’s a wild, frantic watch. A new favorite to add to my list of best Stanwyck noir.
Fantastic Planet (1973)
One of the most unique films I’ve ever watched. The animation is gorgeous, almost hypnotizing, and as odd as things seem at the surface level, the story is startlingly relevant to the real world. My words really can’t do it justice so I’ll just say this: I’ve you’ve never seen it, watch it immediately!
Leave it to Fritz Lang to wow me once again. I felt similarly toward this one as I did toward Fantastic Planet. They’re purely fascinating to watch. Destiny explores the theme of life and death, drawing its main character and the viewer into a grim journey through the in-between (aided by none other than the grim reaper).
Get Out (2017)
I can’t call this my favorite film of the year since there are some very hyped 2017 releases I still need to catch up on, but it lands at the top of my current ranking. One of the most clever, original films I’ve seen in years — especially in the horror genre. Jordan Peele is brilliant. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with in the future.
No Man of Her Own (1950)
Yep, more Stanwyck! In this film she stars as a single, pregnant woman who assumes another woman’s identity after surviving a horrific train accident. There’s a little bit of romantic drama, a little bit of criminal intrigue, and a whole lot of anxiety as she strives to keep her secret.
Edge of Darkness (1943)
A memorable role for Ann Sheridan as a Norwegian doctor’s daughter, joining the resistance in World War II in attempt to save her small town from Nazi occupation. A fascinating and somewhat unique take on the usual wartime drama.
This is such an odd, hilarious, heartbreaking film, with some really great performances. I’m eager to give it another watch, but it is currently close behind Get Out in my ranking of 2017 releases.
The Alligator People (1959)
Looking at the title of this film, you’re probably thinking I’m nuts for letting my love of so-bad-they’re-good ’50s sci-fi movies infect my best of the year list. But if you are thinking that, you clearly haven’t seen The Alligator People! Yeah, it has bad special effects and a generous sprinkle of cheese mixed in, but it’s also an eerie and fast-paced mystery, with a surprisingly sympathetic “monster.”
The Bride Wore Red (1937)
Directed by the pioneering Dorothy Arzner, this film has unfortunately fallen victim to the gossip cycle. When it gets talked about, it’s usually for Joan Crawford’s rumored behind-the-scenes drama and reputation in the press at the time of release. (This was around the time she was dubbed “box office poison.”) But if you look past that, you’ll find a very enjoyable, soapy love triangle anchored by a great Crawford performance. The psychology of Crawford’s character is explored more deeply than you usually find in simple tales of a woman trying to chose between two suitors. It’s a very good watch.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Another one that lands high on my “Best 2017 releases” list. Wonder Woman was everything I wanted it to be and more. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, Wonder Woman is really the only superhero character I care about. I love the Lynda Carter TV series and grew up watching re-runs of it. She was always very inspiring to me, kicking ass and taking names while rocking those fabulous ’70s outfits, haha. I was optimistic, but carefully so when this film was announced. The dream team of Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot exceeded my expectations. The “No Man’s Land” scene will stick in my mind forever.
Until They Sail (1957)
The heartbreaking story of the ups-and-downs occurring on the home front during wartime made this a memorable film discovery for me. There’s also the small fact that it has a stellar cast. Piper Laurie, Sandra Dee, Jean Simmons, and Joan Fontaine all in one film!
The Furies (1950)
Surprise, surprise: more Stanwyck! This was a memorable discovery because when I ordered the film to view it for the Stanwyck Project, it came with a copy of the book on which the film is based, which was a total surprise to me. Naturally, I immediately devoured the book before watching the film. While I’d say I liked the book a bit more than the film (since the film fell victim to some censorship), this is certainly one of Stanwyck’s most fascinating Westerns.
When Strangers Marry (1944)
I watched this one during Noirvember and was very impressed by Kim Hunter’s performance. To top that off, it’s directed by a TMP favorite, William Castle. While it’s definitely a B-movie, tension is successfully built, and Hunter made it memorable for me.
The Reluctant Debutante (1958)
Sometimes you just want to turn your brain off and watch a sweet romance. The Reluctant Debutante is perfect for that — one of the cutest films I watched in 2017. Sandra Dee plays an American girl visiting her father and stepmother in England, where her stepmother decides to throw her a debutante ball, despite the young girl’s protests. It’s just a funny, sweet, easy-viewing film.
The Love Witch (2016)
Certainly one of the most stylish films I watched in 2017! This world of witches and vintage clothes and murderous love spells (crafted by the multi-talented Anna Biller) is a great watch, just as an entertaining and aesthetically pleasing film, but there’s also some clever social commentary thrown in for good measure.
My first theater visit of 2017 was to see this film. It takes a lot for a movie to make me cry, but this one had me bawling like a baby. (Good thing I went to a pretty empty matinee, haha.) I still tear up when I listen to the soundtrack!
Secret People (1952)
A lesser-known film from the pre-Roman Holiday filmography of Audrey Hepburn, this drama is a fascinating meditation on the costs of violent resistance and fighting for change. It’s worth watching for Audrey, but also for a strong performance by Valentina Cortese, and for its thought-provoking script.
What were your favorite discoveries last year? Feel free to share in the comments! And if there are any films on this list you haven’t seen, I highly recommend adding them to your to-be-watched list for 2018!